SPOKANE, Wash. -- Willamette University outscored Northwest Conference rival Whitworth University 24-7 in the second half to rally from a 17-14 halftime deficit and defeat the Pirates, 38-24, at the Pine Bowl on Saturday, Oct. 6. The game was a battle of undefeated teams, as Willamette improved to 5-0 and Whitworth fell to 5-1.
The Bearcats are 1-0 in the NWC, while the Pirates are 1-1 in conference play.
Quarterback Josh Dean (Jr.) of Willamette overcame three interceptions in the first half -- two on deflected passes -- to throw for 392 yards and four touchdowns. Three of his touchdown strikes were hauled in by Jake Knecht (Sr., WR), who finished with six catches for a game-high 147 yards.
Willamette running back Dylan Jones (So.) carried the ball 22 times for 131 yards. The Bearcats gained 598 yards of total offense during the game.
The Willamette defense, which allowed 205 yards and three scores in the first half, limited Whitworth to 168 yards and one score in the second half. The Pirates achieved 68 yards on their lone scoring drive of the final two quarters, which ended in a touchdown to cut the Bearcats' lead to 31-24 with 1:47 left.
An onside kick followed and was recovered by Willamette at the Whitworth 44-yard line. Three plays later, on 3rd-and-8, Dean threw the ball 20 yards to Benny Weischedel (Sr., TE), who raced upfield and scored the clinching touchdown on a 42-yard play with 46 seconds remaining.
In the Bearcats' five games, Dean has thrown for 1,875 yards and 22 touchdowns, while completing 143 of 214 passes (66.8%). Knecht leads Willamette's receivers with 32 catches, including seven for touchdowns. His receptions have covered a total of 450 yards.
Jack Nelson (So.), who played inside linebacker for much of the game after starter Wes Wenzel (Sr., ILB) left with an injury, led the Bearcats with 13 total tackles, including 11 solo stops. He also broke up a pass. Cullen Carroll (Sr., OLB) added 12 total tackles (8 solo).
Willamette opened the contest by driving from its own 35-yard line into Pirate territory. On 4th-and-7 at the Whitworth 30, Dean threw an incomplete pass after being hurried by De' Hall.
Whitworth responded with a 10-play, 58-yard drive that ended with a 29-yard field goal by Robert Thullen with 8:02 left in the first quarter. The Pirates had 1st-and-goal at the 7-yard line, but a false start penalty and solid play by the WU defense forced the field goal.
On its next possession, Willamette covered 67 yard on 10 plays in just under three minutes to take a 7-3 lead.
Dean completed two passes to Knecht during the drive. The first covered 20 yards and gave the Bearcats a first down at the Whitworth 43. The second resulted in a touchdown eight plays later on 3rd-and-10 at the Whitworth 19. Kyle Derby (Jr., PK/P) kicked the extra point.
Whitworth answered with a touchdown drive of its own. Quarterback Bryan Peterson completed a 24-yard scoring pass to Jake DeGooyer to complete the drive. Thullen kicked the PAT for a 10-7 lead.
Willamette's next drive ended when Nic Brockhoff intercepted a tipped pass on the Willamette side of the field. After three plays, Austin Ehlo of Whitworth punted the ball to the Willamette 13, but Chad Pollard (Sr., HB) returned it 27 yards to the 40.
The Bearcats converted on 4th-and-1 with a 2-yard carry by Jones to picked up a first down. A holding penalty on the next play set up 1st-and-20, but Knecht caught a 59-yard pass from Dean to move Willamette in front, 14-10, with 12:02 left in the half.
Two possessions later, Whitworth drove from its own 28-yard line after an interception and scored a touchdown with 4:20 to go in the half.
Whitworth's drive included passes of 11 yards and 19-yards to DeGooyer. The Pirates eventually achieved 1st-and-goal at the 9-yard line. Peterson threw an incomplete pass and then finished the drive with a 5-yard run followed by a 4-yard run for the touchdown. Whitworth led 17-14 at the intermission.
Willamette's defense made a big difference in the second half. The Pirates received the ball first and earned two first downs before the Bearcats forced a punt by Ehlo from the Willamette 43.
A lengthy but quick scoring drive followed. Key passes by Dean were a 26-yarder to Jones and a 27-yarder to Pollard. Taylor Wyman (So., RB) completed the drive on the ground with three runs for a total of 14 yards. He scored the touchdown with a 3-yard run on the third carry. Willamette led, 21-17.
The Bearcats limited Whitworth to no more than 6 plays on 6 of its final 7 possessions, including four consecutive 3-play drives after Wyman scored.
Willamette eventually gained some room on the scoreboard. Before adding to the lead, however, the Bearcats were stopped on 4th-and-goal at the 2-yard line with 4:06 left in the third quarter. Willamette reached the 17-yard line two minutes later before Derby missed a 33-yard field goal.
When the Bearcats got the ball back early in the final quarter, they drove 59 yards on 8 plays to set up a 19-yard touchdown pass from Dean to Knecht with 12:22 remaining. Derby kicked the extra point.
Derby added a 21-yard field goal on the next Willamette drive, giving the Bearcats a 31-17 lead with 7:06 on the clock.
Whitworth achieved its only score of the second half on a n 11-yard pass from Peterson to Ehlo at the end of an 11-play, 68-yard drive. It was the third touchdown of the season for Ehlo, who starts at wide receiver in addition to punting.
The Pirates were within seven points at 31-24, but Willamette secured the win by recovering the onside kick to set up the touchdown pass to Weischedel.
Peterson was 24 of 43 passing for Whitworth for 262 yards and two scores. He was intercepted once by Tyson Giza (Jr., CB). DeGooyer caught 10 passes for 104 yards and one TD.
Whitworth tailback Ronnie Thomas, who entered the game averaging 134.6 yards per contest, gained 85 yards on 22 carries.
Three Whitworth players -- Paul Miller (So., CB), Casey Monahan (Jr., SS) and Jesse Bresser (Fr. FS) -- each contributed eight tackles. Hall (So., DB) concluded the game with seven tackles, all on solo stops.
Willamette will host Lewis & Clark College on Saturday, Oct. 13. Kickoff at McCulloch Stadium is slated for 1:30 p.m. (PDT).